No. 34




Significance of the Estonian National Museum

14 December 2016


RiTo No. 34, 2016

In 2016, the Estonian National Museum got a home of its own. For the first time in history, the Estonian National Museum has a house that has been designed and built especially for the museum. The environment that has been created for the museum gives it new possibilities for development, and it also gives us the right to ask what the significance of the Estonian National Museum is in the 21st century.

In 1909, when the Estonian National Museum was founded, the museum was necessary first of all in order to increase the self-awareness of Estonians, to give self-assurance to the Estonian people for developing as a civilised nation. The museum raised the ideas and ideals of the society.

In the pre-war Republic of Estonia, the National Museum grew into a research institution that defined culture, was the centre of popularising ethnographic and cultural research work. People appreciated the museum because the people felt that they were the creators of the museum, and the museum made the culture of the people valuable and respected.

The Soviet power ravaged the collections of the National Museum, scattered and destroyed them. The Soviet occupants abolished the name of the Estonian National Museum and divided the institution into two museums: the Literary Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.

After Estonia regained its independence, the Estonian National Museum was restored, and the people expected, planned and longed for building a house for the museum.

The building of the Estonian National Museum, called “Memory Field”, was constructed at Raadi. For many years, Raadi had been shunned from memory because of its military connections, and now it has been returned to the people. One of the tasks of the Estonian National Museum is to keep our collective memory alive, not being afraid to awaken also memories that are painful but have to be remembered. The significance of the National Museum lies in the skill to ask questions, to bring topics into public discussion, to show different aspects and sides of things, events and people. Not to be a judge, but to raise problems, issues and unknown factors, to ask and to understand. To be an initiator and a bearer, and also to hold the society together. Today the National Museum has all the possibilities to perform that role in the society, because there is no lack of room, means of presentation or practical knowledge.

The role of the Estonian National Museum in the society is even greater. The museum has to be an umbrella to all who deal with the national culture, let it be revivers of old patterns, searchers for lost stories or repairers of grandmother’s chair. Individuals, societies or institutions. The Estonian National Museum belongs to the people; it was created and now also built by the people.